Category Archives: MTB

Trail bike love – Specialized Rhyme Expert

When it comes to mountain biking I can hold my own, but I will be the first to admit that I am not the greatest on the technical MTB stuff and I’ve always wanted to know what a trail bike has to offer someone like me. Would it suddenly improve my technical skills? Help me conquer my fears? Make me feel more confident? Well I finally got to try the Specialized Rhyme FSR Expert compliments of Specialized Bicycles South Africa and I’ve come to my own conclusions.

iPhone pics 02062016 6172

First the basics: The Rhyme is a women’s specific trail bike with 650b fun-sized wheels. I had been expecting the bike to be heavy, but was super surprised to find that it wasn’t at all. I didn’t weigh it, but it didn’t feel much heavier than my Era. And I was pretty happy taking it up to Saaltjie in Jonkers. The tires are pretty chunky as it comes standard with the Specialized Butcher (front) and Specialized Purgatory (rear). So I’m pretty sure that the rolling resistance was more than I’m used to, but I can’t say I really noticed it and I kept up just fine on all the group rides that I did on it. And on the plus side, the beefy tires provide so much traction and confidence.

The fork has 150mm of travel which is heaps when you’re used to riding 100mm. I would just lock the fork out when I was climbing – the trick was to remember to open it again for the descent!

Saaltjie
Proof I took it to the top of Jonkershoek

I don’t think I’ve ever had such fun on a bike! So. Much. Fun! It just floats over rocks and roots and braking bumps (of which Jonkershoek has many). I was less inclined to brake as much as I usually do and was definitely quite a bit faster (Strava told me so). I got to the end of each section of single track and could not wipe the smile off my face. Like grinning. From ear to ear. The dropper seat post also helped a great deal as it allowed me to move around the bike a lot more than I usually do.

Specialized Apparel Shoot-44
Trail bike love #girlswhoride. Photo: Johan Badenhorst

Now I can’t say that it made me a better rider. If I got scared, I’d still uncleat at a section I thought was dodgy. But I do feel that given more time on a trail bike I would have loved to go and sort out those sections that are problematic for me as I gained a lot of confidence on the bike.

If I had to buy my own bike then it would be a seriously tough call between the Era and a trail bike like this. If I had to just ride for the love of it (not compete) then the Rhyme is the bike that I would want to have. Or if I was a billionaire and owned as many bikes as my heart desired then a trail bike would be in my arsenal. Without a doubt. It is the most fun bike I’ve ever ridden.

Climbing
Photo: Rae True-Brown

I really struggled to return the bike and it had to be prised out of my smutty hands with much unhappiness.

I think there is a lot of scope for trail bikes in South Africa and they just look so good when matched with baggies 🙂 The Specialized Rumor is a great trail bike option for the ladies and the Camber or Stumpjumper FSR are rad men’s trail bikes.

Head to your closest Specialized dealer to arrange a test ride. You won’t regret it. Or maybe you will – because it will make you want one 🙂

Specialized Apparel Shoot-8
Rhymes and Rumors – How rad is the new Specialized ladies trail apparel???                                  Photo: Johan Badenhorst

 

 

 

Advertisements

Weekends to look forward to – the Cell C Arabella MTB Challenge

So the World Triathlon Cape Town race, which happened this past weekend, marks 2 years since I started this blog. It began as a means of documenting what would be a very unique experience as I “went pro” for three weeks.

I was given three weeks notice that I had gotten a start slot for this prestigious race and I stopped all my studies for that short period of time and got myself into the best shape that I could. I dove into the icy waters of the Waterfront alongside my heroes and will forever have some pretty rad memories and pics to document the event.

Fast forward two years and my knees are too much of a mess for me to run. I decided I didn’t want to be around tri folk all weekend having to explain why I couldn’t race.

Instead the inaugural Cell C Arabella MTB Challenge jumped at me! Two days in a beautiful part of the world doing what I love with like-minded people. I was sold!

I begged and pleaded to get off work a bit early to allow Ila and me to drive out to our accommodation in Hermanus on the Friday, but a monsoon arrived and we decided that it would be wiser to drive through the next day.

An early alarm, some peanut butter and banana toast forced down and we were on our way. Despite the darkness of the autumn morning we could tell that the weather was going to be beautiful.

Day 1 was 52km with around 1200m of climbing that would take us from Arabella to Wildekrans Wine Estate. The route was not particularly technical apart from some rutted and washed away descents and we were seriously thankful for the huge amount of water that had fallen the night before which helped to compact the many sandy patches.

Day 1

I have really been struggling with my knees and at around half way my left knee started to hurt. I got slower as it got worse. I am used to pushing through the pain that comes from pushing your body faster and harder, but injury pain seems to be a different story. I eventually dragged my sorry, sore ass across the finish line in 10th place.

We had our bikes washed and stored them in the bike park at Wildekrans before being bused back to Arabella for the most amazing lunch spread at the pool. Ila and I decided to pack up early and head through to Hermanus for a nap before our friends, Lara and Maria, arrived.

IMG_0069
Ila and Marianne taking their post-race stretching/ yoga very seriously

We spent the evening having drinks in town (milkshakes for the racers and wine for the non-racers) and making homemade pizzas with dough from Gino’s. Perfect between stage food! 🙂

The following day was another early alarm. Today’s stage would take us from Wildekrans to Arabella over 42km – much of it singletrack. After popping a myprodol (or two) I was keen to race again. I always say that one should never underestimate a MTB race. 42km can be deceptively hard, with lots of ups and downs. This proved to be the case. I was quite motivated to try and make up for the previous day’s ride and was quite happy with how I maintained focus for the whole stage – I had really struggled in the final 10km the day before so I made sure to stop and throw back some Coke with the last of my Skratch Labs at the last waterpoint.

I crossed the line in 10th place again as I was surprised to be pipped at the line by a fast-charging motivated woman! Love the aggression and competition!

FullSizeRender
GC results

Again, I am just seriously annoyed at my technical skills (or lack thereof) which I feel hold me back so much. It’s an irrational fear and I haven’t yet learnt how to conquer it. But I’ll keep on working at getting better.

Another lovely poolside lunch was followed by prize giving – we had to wait because Ila had come 4th overall and 1st senior lady. So in awe of how much she has improved on a bike since I met her last August as well as her mad tech skills!

The race was incredibly well put-together and applause must go to the Stillwater team who, without fail, put on arguable the best sports events in the country – maybe even the world! The tricky logistics of two venues were nailed-down, the food was amazing and most importantly the MTBing was fun and the race was a vibe!

c584ae413f3f0afa848ceea9b8591a1c
Had such a rad time with an awesome bunch of girls

We dashed back to Stellies, I flew through a shower and then Maria and I were off to Cape Town to watch the elite men’s triathlon. The mad rush was worth it as it was amazing to watch the best triathletes in the world battle it out through the Waterfront.

Dinner with the family in Rondebosch and then back in Stellies by 22:00. So much for a relaxing weekend – what is that even?

At work at 7:30 the next day and it begins again.

I think it might finally be time to give some serious attention and rest to these poor knees of mine. I’ve been fighting it for so long and I can’t really stomach the thought of a proper break. What does one do if one can’t train? What do normal people do? I hope I never have to find out.

A massive thanks to everyone who enables me to do what I love – Specialized Bicycles for my lovely, capable Era Expert and the best kit and gear in the business; Bicycle Power Trading for the PowerTap that enables me to do the specific training that I need to when pushed for time; Skratch Labs for the no-nonsense nutrition that goes down a treat; Virgin Active for their amazing training facilities; TYR for the best wetsuits and swim gear and  G-Form protective gear for keeping my skin intact.

 

 

 

 

Origin of Trails #whoopwhoop

It had been a mad few weeks of almost non-stop racing, but the race that I was looking forward to the most was the last one on the calendar – the Pennypinchers Origin of Trails (POOT) in Stellenbosch. This would be my first two day MTB stage thingy and I was really looking forward to the challenge. Firstly, I haven’t done too much MTB racing and 70km each day would be quite far for me. Secondly, the Origin of Trails is all about the singletrack – something I have a love/hate relationship with. Love because it’s a massive thrill to ride twisty, narrow trails. Hate because I generally end up sprawled somewhere off the trail having been found wanting in the skills department. And thirdly, because it would be the first time that I would race and then wake up the next day and have do it all over again. Please remember that I am a triathlete who trains for races that last between 2 and 3 hours… 🙂

Since I started mountain biking at the beginning of 2013 I have wanted to get to a point where I could do a stage race. Wines2Whales almost happened. And then didn’t, much to my disappointment. I thought that POOT would be the ideal “stage race” to start with.

poot8

The entire Stellenbosch MTB crew was looking forward to POOT with huge excitement – a chance to ride well-known and completely virgin singletracks in our backyard. The race was also viewed as the end of season MTB celebration and many of the pro riders were doing the race chilled, stopping at the various water points situated on the participating wine farms for a glass of wine before continuing on. It had been a long season for everyone.

The afternoon before the race I started developing a very sore throat. I already felt that I was lucky to have gotten that far without getting sick – I am quite susceptible to picking up a bug when I’ve been training and racing hard and my immune system is suppressed. Coach’s rule is that I can race as long as it’s above the shoulders. A sore throat is okay, but if it’s in your chest then its not.

The day of the race I woke up with a very sore throat and snotty nose. Not ideal, but I rolled out of bed, got dressed and hauled myself to the start line. I was starting in B batch and was super excited for the race. I really wasn’t sure how things would pan out, but the vibe at the start was electric! Everyone was stoked to be booked off work and about to ride their bikes.

No shortage of big names on the start line!
No shortage of big names on the start line!

Words from the coach were “steady Eddy,” but as much as I tried it was just really hard to take it easy. I’m used to short races where you go all out from the start. 70km on a MTB is still a long way for me. Shortly after some zig-zagging up and down vineyards I was in home territory – Jonkershoek. We climbed up to one of the Canary singletracks, then across to Neverending, then Valley Trail, onto circle route and around to Specialized Epic, finishing off with the lower Firehut trail.

One of my favourite trails in Jonkershoek - Firehut
One of my favourite trails in Jonkershoek – Firehut

The second water point was at my favourite coffee shop – Ride In – but I didn’t stop. I was feeling like an uber dork with a camelback, but it meant I didn’t need to stop to fill my bottle. The other reason that I was feeling dorky was that I was wearing my G-Form kneepads. Rag me as much as you like, but if I wear them then I don’t fall and if I don’t wear them I fall. So I’m gonna wear them.

We then wound our way to the other side of Stellenbosch, tackling a particularly nasty, rocky climb in Coetzenburg that I didn’t see anyone ride. We rode some great new singletracks (ST) around Dornier and then started to head back towards the finish. I had started getting a bit tired with around 20km to go. And 20km on a MTB can be no joke. There are no easily gained kilometers on a MTB and you need energy to tackle the demanding climbs and your wits about you on the ST.

How not to do it
How not to do it
Demanding day 1
Demanding day 1

Arriving at the finish I quickly stripped off my kneepads and joined the party. We all had lots of fun swapping war stories over an awesome lunch at the finish venue at Paul Roos rugby fields with live entertainment.

poot13

I still wasn’t feeling well that afternoon and decided to downgrade to the shorter 40km route for the second day. The other option was not to start, which actually was just not an option!

The second day started with some major climbing over Botmaskop and then onto the gorgeous Bartinney Wine Estate where the most insane Skyfall ST had been built. Unfortunately, because I had started in a later batch due to downgrading, I was caught behind some slower riders and this took some of the fun out of it.

Skyfall - a masterpiece of ST
Skyfall – a masterpiece of ST

I was really feeling a bit energy-less and glad that I had downgraded, but the ride was still awesome with the most gorgeous scenery in one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa.

We made our way onto Hillcrest Berry Farm and climbed some more, before entering a mad, long, dark culvert to cross under Helshoogte. Then it was over Botmaskop again and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but once at the top it was pretty much all downhill to the finish line.

poot4

poot5
The second time they sent us over Botmaskop – carnage!

I think that only in cycling and running is the phrase “it’s all downhill from here” a great one!

After crossing the line I got cleaned up at the Fedhealth tent and had the most amazing massage thanks to the guys at EPT Recovery.

Heaven
Heaven

Again enjoyed a spectacular lunch and then it was time for prize giving. By doing the 70km/40km option I had come second.

poot12

After a great nap, I joined the afterparty which was held in a cobble-stone square in Stellenbosch. It was an absolutely awesome evening, with great food and company, and was topped off with Goodluck being the title band.

Poot1

Stillwater Sports once again put on a master class in event organising and no detail went unattended to!

poot2

Origin of Trails was a superb event and hopefully the first of many MTB stage races for me 🙂

#whoopwhoop